In 1995, Joy Powell spoke out about being assaulted by an officer in New York’s Albion women’s prison. This was only the beginning of a long saga with the policing and prison system.
And when she got out of prison, her work put an even bigger target on her back.
Powell became a pastor and an activist, initially garnering support when she rallied against gun violence in the community when her son was killed. But once she organized against police violence specifically, she wound up with a false murder charge, and a sentence of 25-to-life! Then, in 2018, police killed her eldest son.
But from getting fewer letters of support in the mail, to heightened rates of sexual assault, being a Black woman political prisoner also means critical disparities. Who can many of us name besides Assata or Angela Davis?
NYC organizer Kerbie Joseph notes that this isn’t a new phenomenon. “We had to fight tooth and nail to get to points of unity,” Joseph said of liberation organizations like the Black Panther Party, which often marginalized LGBTQ+ people and women.
“Do Black women political prisoners matter too?” Powell herself lamented.
Like Powell believes, in order to achieve full Black liberation, we must challenge all systems of oppression. That means we need to fight not just the police and the prison industrial complex, but systems like “misogynoir,” too.